The New Inquiry on the Internet as a god to be worshipped:
The relentless enthusiasm that cyber-utopians have for the potential of new technologies to transform the world often borders on religious fervor. In the case of Wired’s founding editor Kevin Kelly, it is literally true. After experiencing a religious awakening at the age of 27, Kelly now professes a unique form of Christianity that sees profound spiritual implications in technological progress. He believes that as our networks become more interconnected and our software becomes more intelligent, a vast planetary consciousness will emerge, knitting together our infrastructure into a sublime artificial mind that will inspire religious devotion.
Although this sounds far-fetched, current discourse about the Internet confirms the general prediction. We may not discuss the Internet as a planetary consciousness from on high, but we increasingly reify it as if it were a singular, invisible agency like God. This discourse heralds not the return to explicit belief that Kelly hoped for; instead, belief in Web divinity appears more subtly, slipping into everyday language in enthusiastic, worshipful comments like “This is why I love the Internet!”
The logic at work here is an obvious extension of the longstanding slogan of Internet activists, “Information wants to be free,” which assigns agency to information in a way that a more humanistic phrasing, like “Information ought to be free,” would not. The title of Kelly’s most recent book, What Technology Wants, makes this same move. But it’s less clear why secular and often proudly atheistic hackers would choose to view information as capable of wanting things beyond what people want from it.
Just as we might understand what religious people aspire to by studying what traits they attribute to their deity, we can understand Web worshippers by what they attribute to the Internet. These include such things as boundless creativity, innovation, unlimited potential for novelty, entrepreneurism, multifaceted, a shape-shifting network that rejects stable identities and embraces change. Following Ludwig Feuerbach’s hypothesis that man created God in his own image, one might say that the deified Internet embodies all the attributes of the perfect neoliberal subject that economic conditions require, offering a point of identification for the precarious worker and dignifying their situation.
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